Our lab is focused on the dynamics and recovery of severely injured brains. Hundreds of thousands of patients suffer from disorders of consciousness such as the vegetative state and the minimally conscious state, and yet we understand little about the way the brain functions in these states (especially the minimally conscious state). Our group is particularly interested in understanding the injured brain at rest (spontaneous dynamics), the injured brain performing a task, and the injured brain’s response to pharmaceutical and interventional therapy (including deep brain stimulation). We use numerous methods to study this problem, but are mostly focused on EEG and fMRI.
My thesis work in the lab seeks to understand the severely injured brain’s response to language stimuli. In particular, I am seeking to answer the question, “can we use passively-presented language (where all the subject has to do is listen) to detect language processing and conscious content perception?” To accomplish this goal, I am using multimodal imaging technologies during a hierarchical set of language stimuli, including single-word presentations and natural stories. I am also interested in how the brain’s response to such stimuli reflects changes not only in content processing but also in general arousal, as patients with disorders of consciousness are often fundamentally under-aroused.